Translated by Sandy Lau
Asakusa Oden Otafuku – Traditional Dining With A Tokyo Skytree View
Written by Chu
Hot oden is a must-try dish when in Japan, full of flavor and delicious textures from fish, tofu, and vegetable ingredients. At Asakusa Oden Otafuku in Tokyo, visitors can eat aromatic oden with a 100-year history while gazing at Tokyo Skytree.
Oden is a common dish eaten during the winter season in Japan.
Oden was first made during the Muromachi period (1336 – 1573). Tofu dengaku, skewered tofu dressed with miso paste, was one of the first oden dishes. Following the end of the Edo period, soy sauce production flourished in the Kanto area, which eventually led to the development of a stewed soy-based dish now known as oden (*1).
*1... There are various other opinions and theories on the origins of this dish.
Asakusa Oden Otafuku is a well-established oden shop located in a commercial building in Asakusa. Here, you can enjoy as many mouthwatering dishes as you please to warm yourself up, and you can also learn about changes in Japan’s food culture.
The History Behind Otafuku
The shop is named after Otafuku, a legendary figure believed to answer prayers for a thriving business, and was founded in Osaka. However, why did the founder decide on oden, out of all the Japanese dishes?
Restaurant competition in Osaka was high during the Meiji period, when the restaurant started. However, oden was fairly unknown at the time, allowing the founder to open that would break the mold of Osaka’s restaurant industry. The shop then relocated from Osaka to Asakusa, Tokyo around 1915.
Flavors From East and West Japan
Oden is separated into two categories. These categories are Kanto-style oden, made with a katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) and soy sauce base, and Kansai-style oden, seasoned with kombu kelp and salt.
Otafuku originally seasoned their oden very similarly to the Kansai-style to suit the taste buds of people in Osaka. However, they adjusted the flavors of their oden after moving to Tokyo and created oden blending the tastes of Kanto and Kansai.
Criteria for Selecting Oden Ingredients
Otafuku offers around 40 different types of oden. The ingredients are selected for their ability to draw out the flavor of the dashi stock.
For example, ingredients such as curry dango (a curry-flavored dumpling), pickled red ginger, and shiitake mushrooms have a very strong flavor. These ingredients are not suitable for oden because they taste too strong alone.
The staff and cooks are also friendly with customers. This may also be one reason why the oden tastes so delicious.
Recommended Dishes at Otafuku
Daikon radish at the center of the photo. From the left in the back is wheat chikuwabu, carrot, Japanese butterbur, and a tofu and vegetable ganmodoki
Daikon radish is a popular oden choice in Japan, and Otafuku makes theirs especially delicious. The shop’s semi-transparent daikon radish soaked in dashi stock becomes so soft that it can easily be pierced with chopsticks. With the first bite you'll be able to tell how selective Otafuku is in choosing its ingredients.
Daikon radish: 330 yen including tax
Ganmodoki, made with ingredients such as tofu, carrots, lotus root, and burdock, is another popular item you must try. The soft texture of the tofu and the chewiness of the other ingredients go extremely well together, allowing you to taste several textural layers.
Ganmodoki: 330 yen including tax
Carrots, Japanese butterbur, and chikuwabu (*1) are some other popular ingredients. If you aren't sure what you should order, use this article as a reference.
Carrots: 110 yen including tax
Japanese butterbur: 280 yen including tax
Chikuwabu: 170 yen including tax
*1 Chikuwabu: a cylindrically shaped ingredient made only from wheat flour
Must-Try Side Dishes at Otafuku
Otafuku also offers a menu that goes well with alcohol in addition to their oden menu for customers wanting to enjoy a drink. Out of the entire menu, the Stewed Beef Tendon (1,000 yen incuding tax) and Tuna Nuta (raw fish seasoned in vinegar and miso; 1,100 yen including tax) are the most popular and original dishes.
The Stewed Beef Tendon has a strong, sweetly seasoning that is exquisite. The fatty beef tendon will melt in your mouth.
Tuna Nuta uses lean, light tuna. It is garnished with pickled spring onions and flavorful red miso.
The velvety lean meat, the refreshing taste of the onions, and the strong flavor of the red miso create three delicious layers.
Don’t Forget Your Wooden Tag When Paying
The register near the entrance has a traditional Japanese atmosphere that recreates how the register originally looked when the shop opened 100 years ago. The round wooden tags hung up at the front of the register show seat numbers in the shop.
When you arrive at your seat, the staff will bring your wooden tag to you. When paying your check, be sure to take this tag with you to the register!
Savor the Century-Long Tradition and Development of Oden
Oden is a food that many travelers may think of as traditional Japanese cuisine. However, at Asakusa Oden Otafuku, oden is a symbol the progress and change of food culture in Japan.
Asakusa Oden Otafuku continues to create exquisite oden flavors for diners, passed down for over one hundred years.